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The Hottest Financial Tips to Help You Jumpstart 2019

The start of a new year is exciting but can be stressful. This is the time of year people make impossible resolutions that become overwhelming before the end of January.

When it comes to personal finances, you can avoid the resolution trap by keeping it real. Instead of making big impossible promises to yourself, try making a number of small changes you can actually handle.

Wondering what makes me credible in this area? Well here goes: I’m debt free, have a great credit score (above 800), am self-employed, and get no help from my family. Yes, I’m married, but my husband and I merged accounts only recently. I agreed to do this because sending each other money for groceries, house bills, and the mortgage was becoming annoying! But, as God is my witness, I’ve always paid my proper portion. I am a firm believer in being as independent as possible, because, as my mom always said, “uno nunca sabe.”

Here’s what’s worked for me to stay financially healthy…

Prioritize paying off loans.

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One thing I’ll say repeatedly is that you must make it your number one priority to pay off every loan you have. If you’re paying just the minimum, you’ll never get out from under that debt. Put as much as you can into each monthly payment. Even $10 extra per month makes a difference over time.

Use a balance transfer card.

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There’s a slew of cards that offer transfer balance deals at low or zero APR for the first year. I have taken advantage of these deals especially when there’s a big charge on my card. For example, during a recent move I had to buy lots of furniture and stuff for the new house, so once I was done with that big spending, I transferred the balance onto a zero-interest Citibank card. Now I have a whole year to pay off that amount with no interest rate. But don’t let zero-interest make you lazy. You have to pay it off, because if you don’t within the year, the interest rate will begin to accumulate, and then there’s no point. Citibank continues to offer me these no-APR deals every six months because they want to keep me as a customer, so now I know they are there just in case a financial burden comes up.

If you’re self-employed, put away 20 percent from each paycheck for taxes.

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I’ve been freelancing full-time for more than 2 years now, and each check I get includes the full amount, meaning I don’t get charged a tax. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to pay taxes on it. So, in order for me to pay taxes on each paycheck, I take out 20 percent of the amount and put it in another account. When it’s time to pay annual taxes, I have my money ready to go.

Make a habit of putting 10 percent of every paycheck into a separate savings account.

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Saving money is difficult, especially if you need every cent of it. If you get into the habit of putting money away the moment you get paid, it will add up and you will be amazed at how quickly that happens. If 10 percent is too much for you, try getting there slowly by putting in at least 5 percent.

Get started on that 401(k).

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Do not plan on social security or that million-dollar business idea to keep you looking fly in your golden years.  Federal social security is slowly becoming nonexistent, and the likelihood of you inventing the next fidget spinner is looking slimmer and slimmer, which means you must start planning for retirement now, on your own terms. One financial institution that can help you make sense of retirement is Fidelity Investments. Honestly, without Fidelity, I never would have started not only a 401(k) tax-advantaged savings account, but I wouldn’t have a small stock portfolio I can occasionally check on.

Start separate savings account for that special thing.

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If you love to travel or buy expensive things that seem unattainable, start separate savings account for that special thing. This account is different from your real savings account because you can use this money for something you truly want. Your primary savings account should be for unexpected expenses like getting laid off, breaking your leg, facing an unexpected car repair, etc. But your secondary savings account is money you can actually use for that special thing. Each week put as much or as little as you can into the account. You’ll actually end up putting more once you see the amount increasing.

Don’t be afraid of having multiple accounts.

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Having multiple accounts is nothing new. In fact, it’s a thing of the past to just have one checking and one for savings. Most banks require that you have just $50 in the account at all times, which isn’t hard to manage. I have multiple accounts, and it helps to keep track of where my money is going. One account is for taxes, another for savings, and another for that special thing I really want.

Make sure you pay each card ASAP.

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Be careful not to overspend. Charge the card for the amount you can pay off. If you’re spending more than you have, you will always get into trouble. If you’re spending a lot, and don’t have enough to pay it back, be sure to then use the transfer balance in order to not get killed by APR on those charges. It’s always safe to never have more than one transfer balance in a year.

Get Mint.

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A helpful app that is useful for sorting out where your money is going is Mint. It tracks your monthly bills, gives you your latest credit score and assists with budgeting. We use so many apps all the time, so why not use one that is actually making your life better and less stressful?

Learn how to party when you don’t have money to go out.

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There’s a misconception that if you’re living on a budget, you can’t have fun. That’s so untrue! On a recent night out, I asked the bartender how much a shot of tequila cost (about $8). But why buy a shot when you can get a whole bottle for $35? I’m not saying to get drunk in your kitchen, but it can be fun to host gatherings at home — and less expensive. Not only that but if people come over BYOB, it’s likely that you will keep all of the leftovers. So really, it’s a win-win.

Don’t show off on social media.

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If your life is trying to keep up with the Kardashians, it may be affecting your wallet. Do you really need every Kylie Lip Kit? Must you truly have that beach front AirBnB just so you can blow up your Instagram? I’m not saying it’s not amazing to treat yourself to cool stuff or travel to the Bahamas during winter break. But, if your spending habits are putting you in debt just so your social media can be on point, is it really worth it? If you can do that splashy stuff and still have money to pay utilities, rent, and groceries, then by all means — enjoy.

Shop thrift.

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Save serious (and I mean serious) money by finding your look at a thrift store. Urban Outfitters, H&M, American Eagle, Forever 21 brands, they’re all at thrift—and often just months or a year after they were at retail.  If you can’t abide sifting through other people’s giveaway items, check out upscale resale shops and consignment stores. My husband and I have found family-heirloom-quality furniture at antique stores and estate sales. The last day of an estate sale, when they’re trying to clear everything out, can be a real score. I know this isn’t for everyone, so take it or leave it. But if you’re really trying to keep that budget in check while living well, this is not a bad strategy.

READ: She Struggled To Pay For College Because She Was Undocumented, So This Latina Created An App To Make The Process Easier For The Next Generation

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My Most Memorable Christmas Was The One I Spent In A Women’s Shelter As A Kid

El Amor

My Most Memorable Christmas Was The One I Spent In A Women’s Shelter As A Kid

Christmas can be an absolutely wonderful time of year for many reasons but it can also be a really expensive time of year for many of us. Now that I am an adult and have my own family to take care of (furry kids included), I am starting to realize just how much money my parents must have spent on all of the decorations, excessive food, and toys I got as a kid. I’m very grateful for all of it but, if I were honest, the best Christmas of my life was the one when we had the least amount of money.

When I was 9 years old, I had the best Christmas of my entire life — all while living at a women’s shelter with my mom and younger brother.

The year before, I spent Christmas at Disney World with my entire family: dad, mom and baby brother. Disney World is just as beautiful around the holidays as you can imagine. There were twinkly lights everywhere, Christmas trees all around even though there’s no actual snow in Florida and my favorite cartoon characters were walking around everywhere, smiling, posing for photos and signing my little signature notebook. It was a happy time and yet it wasn’t the fondest holiday memory of my childhood.

At the time, we had only been in the United States of America for eight months. My parents had immigrated our family to the U.S. and my dad had worked hard at his door-to-door salesman job in those first difficult months in America. He must have done well since we were all rewarded with the trip to Disney. But despite the wonder and splendor of the supposed happiest place on Earth, my first Christmas in America was still scary and confusing.

I didn’t have any friends, I was barely getting by in school and I noticed my parents fighting a lot around the holidays.

Despite the trip to Disney, we didn’t have a lot of money. Soon enough, just over a year after we came to the U.S., my parents separated. My mom couldn’t support us on her own, though, so we moved into a women’s shelter. I was nine years old and more frightened than ever.

“Why did my parents bring us here if we were just going to stop being a family?” I remember thinking.

Our time at the women’s shelter was very strange to me at first. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t seeing my dad come home from work every day. Instead, I had to share a small room with a couple of twin beds — all for the three of us. It was terrifying and I didn’t know anything that was going on. My mom wouldn’t talk to us about what had really happened between her and my dad. All I knew is that we didn’t have a choice and had to live there for now.

And then, Christmas came… and the women’s shelter became magical.

It might sound strange to describe the scariest time in my life as also the most magical, but that’s what happened. My family didn’t have any money to provide us with a nice Christmas that year but, somehow, the great people that worked at that Miami women’s shelter and the people that supported the shelter made it into the actual happiest place on Earth that Christmas.

Although it could have easily been the hardest Christmas of my life, it ended up being the best.

I remember walking through the halls of that women’s shelter during the month of December and seeing smiling faces and decorations everywhere. I remember how organization after organization came and donated toys to the shelter — many of which I ended up with. In fact, by the end of December, I had so many new toys that I could cover half of my bed with all of them. As a nine-year-old, it felt like the luckiest Christmas of my life.

What started out as a sad Christmas without my dad became a happy Christmas with lots of toys.

But it didn’t turn into the happiest Christmas of my life because of all the toys. Although, yes, I’ll admit that to my nine-year-old self at the time, all of the toys seemed like heaven. What I really learned that Christmas was that life can be difficult and scary but that you can also find a lot of joy in it, especially around Christmas.

There’s something about this time of year that truly does make people act a little more generously towards their fellow human beings. Sometimes that means companies opening up their hearts and donating money or toys or clothes to women and children in need. Other times it means fellow individual human beings donating their time and money to help others.

That’s why, ever since I became an adult, I’ve tried to give back to others around this time of year just as I had received many kindnesses as a kid this time of year. Throughout the years, I’ve made sure to donate to various women’s rights and Latinx organizations who are doing good for others. Some years I even took the time to volunteer, often at a women’s shelter wrapping donated gifts for little girls and boys just like I was.

But this year, with memories of my happiest Christmas fresh in my mind, I decided to donate toys to my local women’s shelter.

It seems strange and silly now to admit that my happiest Christmas of my entire childhood was spent in a women’s shelter but it’s true. The year after, my parents got back together and are still together today. In fact, they just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary and are happier than ever. Yet still, my happiest Christmas wasn’t spent in our home, gathered around the tree on Noche Buena, wildly opening presents with my little brother. Instead, my happiest Christmas came when I realized that people have an incredible capacity for caring.

The world today makes me forget about those moments sometimes. There’s so much going on these days that it’s easy to forget that but remembering hope and light in the world is what the holidays are ultimately all about. And, you know, helping a little girl get her dream Christmas present and restore her hope in fellow human beings.

Read: My Son Never Met My Abuela, But This Recipe Keeps Her Memory Alive

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Bad Money Managing Habits To Break In The New Year And How

Money Moves

Bad Money Managing Habits To Break In The New Year And How

As the new year approaches, most of us will be buying gym memberships and perfecting meal plans in order to ensure that this time around, our resolutions will stick. And although we agree that taking control of our health is commendable, we’d like to play devil’s advocate and argue that our financial health is just as important. Why not resolve to overhaul your financial situation, instead of your body, in the new year?

As young adults, it’s easy to slip into an anxious mindset regarding ourselves, where do we even start? With student loans tying up our bank accounts and the cost of living at an all-time high, it can seem pointless to try and break our money-managing bad habits. Luckily, it’s not pointless. Taking control of your finances may be tough, but like any difficult task, it’s completely worth it. The best way to start? Break your bad habits! Check out our list of bad money managing habits that have got to go in 2019.

1. Spending Without a Budget

Marking up a budget and sticking to it may seem like more pain than it’s worth, but the amount of help it can make in the long run can’t be overstated. The best part about budgeting is that sometimes you can afford the purchases you’d otherwise classify as a “guilty pleasure”. When you budget correctly, purchases you would otherwise classify as indulgences are no longer cause for guilt–just pleasure.

How to fix it: Use a fun app like Mint to set goals and track your spending automatically. Remember to establish realistic goals when writing a budget that you’re confident you’ll stick to throughout 2019. That means budgeting things that are “unnecessary”, like concerts, movies, and makeup. In the end, you’ll be spending that money anyway, so it’s good to be upfront about it so you can plan accordingly!

2. Racking Up Debt

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Birthday Boating ????

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Credit cards should be used for those really big purchases that you can sensibly pay off over months’ time. It shouldn’t be used for day-to-day expenses like groceries or gas. That’s a surefire way to get you too comfortable with using your credit card and “putting off” full payments once you see how much debt you’ve racked up.

How to fix it: If you’re addicted to plastic, try leaving your cards at home completely. Instead, withdraw your weekly budget in cash and put it in an envelope. Only spend from that envelope throughout the week. Sometimes you need to take extreme measures to create healthy habits.

3. Paying the Minimum on Your Credit Card Balance

It can be tempting to see the measly $20 minimum payment on your credit card bill and opt to pay that back instead of the hundreds of other dollars that you actually owe. But don’t be fooled by this number–it’s a trap by credit card companies to get you paying interest for a longer time on the balance you owe them. Each month, pay your statement balance in full in order to avoid paying the interest amount on whatever you owe the credit card company.

How to fix it: The best way to stick to paying off your balance in full each month is to be more selective about what you use your credit card on. After all, It’s easier to pay off a $50 balance than a $500 one. In the end, you’ll end up saving money–we promise.

4. Spending More Money Than You Make

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually one of the harder habits to break. As young adults, we’re at the point in our lives where our income varies wildly year to year. At this time in our lives, it’s not unusual to get a promotion every year that increases our income by thousands of dollars. However, this can be a slippery slope. The more you make, the more comfortable you become developing “big spender” habits. And why not? You’re invincible! Not so. Even if you’re making thousands more dollars than you did last year, it’s still important to track your income and expenses and make sure you’re at least breaking even every month.

How to fix it: To establish this habit, download your bank’s app on your phone and check your account balance every day to keep yourself accountable.

5. Not Having an Emergency Fund

It’s easy to neglect emergency savings when everything is going right. But we’ve all been in a situation where our car breaks down or our laptop dies, or we have to face a high-health insurance deductible from something as simple as slipping on ice. It’s times like these that can make or break a person financially. Commit to putting away 15% of your income into a “Rainy Day” fund.

How to fix it: If the idea of taking money out of your paycheck pains you, ask your bank if you can set up a direct deposit from your paycheck into your emergency savings. You won’t even know the money is missing.

6. Going Out to Eat Too Much

Millennials are the generation most guilty of this. As has been reported, we’re the generation that loves to eat out  According to one study, the average millennial eats out five times a week, much more often than their Babyboomer and Gen-X counterparts. Although appetizers here and a cocktail there seems innocent* enough when you’re hanging with friends, it all adds up. $50 once a week at a restaurant adds up to $2700 in the course of the year.

How to fix it: Commit to eating out less at restaurants and spending less when you do. This doesn’t mean you have to run down every dinner invite that comes your way, but at least think twice about stopping off at Chipotle when you’re running errands on Sunday. And when you do go out with friends, skip the appetizer and limit yourself to one drink or no drink at all! There are so many incredible and fun ways to meal prep now, that there’s no excuse for this one.

7. Paying Bills Late

Taking a little longer to pay a bill may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but continuing to do it can have a negative effect on your finances. Late vs. on-time payments of your bill’s accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score. If you fail to pay a bill more than 30 days after its due date, you risk taking a negative hit on your credit report. And as you know, your credit score is connected to every financial move you’ll make in your life. So having a good credit score is important!

How to fix it: Set reminders on your phone calendar for upcoming bill due dates. Make sure the reminders warn you at least a week in advance when a pricey bill is due–that way you won’t feel the monthly whiplash of seeing $300 or more leave your bank account to the bill collector.

8. Buying Things You Don’t Need

With internet shopping, it’s easy to see a deal that you feel you can’t pass up and click away your dollars. But the convenience of the internet can be dangerous. How many of us have ordered a package off of Amazon to almost forget about it when it arrives at our front door? In the new year, pledge to be more mindful of the purchases you make.

How to fix it: A good rule of thumb to determine whether a purchase will be worth it, coincides with how often you think about a potential purchase during your day. If you notice that you think about it once a day or more, the purchase will probably be worth it. Another trick is to create a Wishlist on Amazon or another online store of all the items you’re dreaming of. Revisit the list in a month. If any of them still tickle your fancy and are in your budget range, go ahead and purchase.

9. Not Giving Back

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Children as young as 7 years old are able to detect racial and ethnic discrimination aimed at them, according to a recent study.
But children who are raised with a strong sense of their ethnic-racial identity are more resilient to the psychological harm that such discrimination inflicts, the study also found.
“These findings highlight the importance of reducing discrimination and its pernicious effects, as well as promoting a positive sense of ethnic-racial identity and belonging to partially buffer children in the interim,” said Tuppett Yates, one of the study’s authors and a developmental psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, in a released statement.An abstract of the study can be found at the Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology website, but the full study is behind a paywall.  #therapyforlatinx #therapy #discrimination #latinx #poc

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As any flight attendant will tell you, it’s best to “secure your own oxygen mask” before reaching out to help others. So, although we don’t recommend giving to charity if you’re drowning in debt and can’t even manage to pay your rent, if you do have some disposable income, it wouldn’t hurt to give back. In fact, studies show that those who donate to charities are happier.

How to fix it: Make a list of causes that are close to your heart or that you’d like to get more involved in. Then, do some research. Find charities that support the same causes you love. But before you give, make sure charities are legitimate and the funds you’re giving go where they’re promised. Use a site like Charity Navigator to vet foundations. After that, happy giving!

Read: 9 Ways To Winter-Proof Your Curly Hair And Make Sure It Retains Moisture

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